What’s funny about stabbing your scalp and your face with a bunch of fine needles? If it means addressing your hair loss — then yes, it’s definitely fun! This process is called derma rolling or microneedling.
You can do microneedling at home with a handheld device called a derma roller, which you use to prick your scalp and facial skin. This small roller with tiny needles all over is designed to make tiny punctures in your skin. Why would you want to do this?
Microneedling treatment with a derma roller is an effective method to stimulate the growth of hair. It can be used to combat hair loss in both women and men. Microneedling can be combined with topical treatments, such as minoxidil, which increases both treatments’ effectiveness for stimulation of hair growth. Microneedling can also be used for the stimulation of beard growth in men.
This article will discuss how to use a derma roller as a treatment for hair loss.
Derma Rollers for Skin and Hair
Microneedling with a derma roller is an effective and well-established method for skincare. The device pricks your skin to reactivate your collagen production (the protein responsible for making your skin supple and youthful). It also creates micro punctures in your skin for hydrating and serum products to penetrate deeper into your skin, thus makes them work even better on your skin. This clever device can also address scarring issues, stretch marks, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. For an in-depth guide to using a derma roller at home, click here.
But microneedling is also an effective way to grow your hair.
So how to grow hair with derma rollers?
Derma Roller for Hair Growth
Recently, microneedling with a derma roller has been shown as an effective treatment for hair growth stimulation. There’s interesting science behind it, and if you are interested, you can read more about the underlying science in these articles: 2017, 2015, 2014.
In a nutshell, pricking the skin with microneedles achieves two main things:
- It creates micro-channels in the skin to increase the effectiveness of topical skincare products.
- It creates micro-injuries to the skin, and in the process of healing these micro-injuries, the body releases growth factors that stimulate the growth of hair and collagen production.
How to Use Derma Roller for Hair Loss
Several modalities have been described for hair loss treatment with a derma roller. You can use a derma roller alone or in combination with minoxidil for greater effect. When using in combination with minoxidil, one should not apply minoxidil immediately after derma rolling in order to prevent penetration of minoxidil into systemic circulation.
What is minoxidil and how does it work?
Minoxidil tablet (Brand: Loniten) is used for treating severely high blood pressure, whereas minoxidil topical (Brand: Rogaine) is used for treating hair loss. Minoxidil (Rogaine) stimulates hair follicles to regrow thicker, but the exact mechanism of action is unknown. Minoxidil (Rogaine) can be used for treating hair loss by both men and women.
Method 1. Microneedling without minoxidil
- For this modality to be effective, one should choose microneedles of 1.0-1.5mm in length. This length stimulates the release of growth factors, which stimulates hair growth directly. Needles shorter than 1.0mm are not effective for hair growth stimulation.
- Microneedling frequency: once in 3-4 weeks.
- It is recommended to get this treatment done by a licensed professional. You can do it yourself at home, but you need to educate yourself properly on doing it safely.
Method 2. Microneedling in combination with topical minoxidil on separate days
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) is available in different formulations for men and women. It is usually applied twice per day for men and once per day for women according to the instructions that come with the product.
- Microneedling is done once every 3-4 weeks using 1.0-1.5mm needles to directly stimulate the growth of hair.
- On the day when you do microneedling, minoxidil should not be applied. In fact, one should wait 1-2 days after microneedling before resuming regular minoxidil treatments.
Can you use a derma roller for enhancing the absorption of minoxidil?
Derma rollers with short microneedles of 0.2-0.3mm are often used to increase topical treatment absorption. Should you try and increase minoxidil absorption by dermarolling right before its application to make it more effective? No, you should not do this. The formulation of minoxidil is already optimized by the manufacturer for optimal absorption to achieve the best benefit with the least side effects. Increasing the effective dose of minoxidil by microneedling may not be safe.
When Will You See Improvements in Hair Growth with Derma Rolling?
You should see positive results within 8 to 10 weeks of regular derma-rolling. It’s important to do derma rolling consistently. For maximum results, one needs to perform consistent derma rolling for 6 months to 1 year.
Step-by-Step Guide to Derma Rolling Your Scalp
- Do not share your roller with anyone.
- Do not use a derma roller on areas with active acne, eczema, irritated or damaged skin, open wounds, or unknown skin conditions. If in doubt, consult with a dermatologist.
- If you are taking any medication, consult with a health care provider if minoxidil and/or microneedling is safe for you.
Step 1. Clean the Device
Clean it thoroughly before using it by disinfecting it with rubbing alcohol. Dip the roller’s head in a glass of 70% isopropyl alcohol. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove, then let it dry for 10 minutes. It’s important to clean your derma roller correctly. You can read in detail on how to clean your derma roller here.
Step 2 – Shampoo Your Hair
Before using it on your scalp, you need to wash your hair first and get rid of the dirt. This step is critical. Microneedling enhances absorption of everything that gets on your skin, and you don’t want dirt to penetrate it. Skin must be as clean as possible. Go for a natural or mild shampoo. Shampoo with harsh chemicals (think sulfates or parabens) will irritate your scalp.
Step 3 – Derma Roll Your Scalp
Untangle knots in your hair by combing it so that the needles will have more access to puncture all areas of your scalp. Part your hair and run the roller 10 times in all directions to ensure that you reached 100 percent of your scalp. As a rough guide, the total derma rolling time should be around 10 minutes.
Step 4 – Apply a Hair Care Product
- Do not apply minoxidil if you used 1.0-1.5mm microneedles for 1-2 days after the microneedling treatment.
- Apply a moisturizing hair-care product (optional). Both microneedling and minoxidil treatment dehydrate skin and make it sensitive to irritation. It’s important to apply a non-irritating hair-care product. Since everybody is different, a bit of trial and error is needed to determine what works best. Clean and cold-pressed oils such as Argan, Castor, or Jojoba are top picks. If in doubt, consult a professional on what to use after microneedling. You may opt not to use anything if you don’t have a suitable hair-care product that works for you personally.
Like every little thing on earth, sometimes things might go wrong. But with derma rollers, it’s primarily how you use and maintain them that will make a difference when it comes to adverse reactions. Also, the longer the needles, the stronger the side effects. For 0.2-0.3mm length, the side effects are typically very mild and go away within 1-2 days. This is the needle length that is recommended for home use. With longer needles, there is a potential for more serious side effects. This is why we recommend that microneedling with 1.0mm and longer needles should be done only by licensed professionals.
Typical Side Effects of Microneedling
- Redness and Swelling: This is the most common side effect. It occurs virtually with every microneedling treatment and is considered to be normal. When using up to 0.3mm needles, this disappears after a few hours. With longer needles, it may take up to 3 days to get back to normal.
- Sunburn Sensation and Skin Dryness: Microneedling may make your skin irritated. It also slightly exfoliates the skin and opens up pores, which leads to dehydration. This is normal. Again, the longer the needles, the stronger the side effect. This is expected to disappear within 1-3 days, depending on the needle length.
- Infection: This is a sign of insufficient roller disinfection, skin cleansing, or an underlying skin condition. Essentially, this is most likely a user error. Make sure to clean and disinfect the roller correctly. Ensure proper cleansing of the skin. Lastly, if there is an active skin infection, the roller can spread it to other places. Consult with a dermatologist if in doubt about your skin condition.
- Allergic reaction to metals: If you are allergic to one metal, you can try a derma roller made from another metal. For example, if you used stainless steel, try titanium.
- Side Effects Due to Improper Maintenance of Derma Roller: Since you’re using it to maintain hair, it’s a long-term investment. Ask yourself if you have the budget and time for it. You’d need to get a new one regularly. If you don’t do this, old needles might be left stuck inside your skin. Old rollers are harder to clean and keep disinfected. Old rollers might have blunt needles, which are useless.
- Skin rashes or raised skin bumps: This is quite rare, and it could be due to the hypersensitivity of your skin and scalp. If this happens, stop using the derma roller and seek medical care.
Keeping Derma Rollers Safe and Clean
- Never place it on a hard surface; always use a towel if you’re putting it down for a while.
- Make sure that your derma roller has been air-dried before you put it back in its protective case.
- As mentioned earlier, disinfect the roller before and after each use for 20-30 min. Disinfect your roller with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Shake off the excess alcohol before air-drying it for 10 minutes.
- Before packing it away, clean it by shaking the roller in a clean container with hot water and dish soap in it. Avoid using bath soap; dish soap is the one that effectively removes skin and super tiny blood particles in your roller. Then disinfect with alcohol, air dry, and return to its case. For detailed instructions on proper cleaning of your derma roller, follow this link.
Derma Rollers have been proven to be effective for hair growth. But its effectiveness relies on consistent treatments over a sufficiently long period of time. Combining derma rolling with topical stimulators of hair growth, such as minoxidil, further increases its effectiveness for combatting hair loss.